In cultures across the world, including the traditional Chinese culture, the older generations are revered for their moral integrity rooted in their unwavering faith. However, in today’s China, under communist rule, those same virtues are attacked, putting the elderly at risk of being persecuted.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), infamous for its draconian atheistic ideologies that originated from Marxism, has shown no leniency in persecuting even senior citizens on account of their spiritual beliefs.
The vulnerable elderly Christians, Buddhists, Uyghurs, and Falun Gong adherents are constantly monitored, harassed, detained, deprived of their pension, beaten, and at times, even tortured to death.
The CCP’s sophisticated internet censorship and surveillance make it hard to obtain the exact data on the ongoing genocidal abuses and human rights violations, but experts and independent investigations have warned that the situation is grim.
Due to the CCP virus pandemic, the world’s economy has been severely affected, including China’s. While ordinary people are facing the brunt of financial hardship, the communist regime is benefiting in extorting money and subsidies from its elderly citizens.
For years, not only have many retirees faced rampant persecution for upholding their faith but have also had their pensions suspended.
In April 2020, a poor Christian woman in Henan province had her poverty alleviation aid scratched. The officials even removed all religious couplets and symbols from her home, reported Bitter Winter, an online magazine that reports on religious freedom and human rights in China. In another incident, officials from Jiangxi’s Yingtan city scrapped the financial aid of a local immobile Christian woman because she hosted “religious meetings” at home.
The CCP extorted over $1.12 million in 2020 alone from the families of 401 Falun Gong practitioners, roughly averaging $2,800 per person. In addition, at least 161 retired practitioners were forced to pay back the pension they received during the time they were illegally imprisoned and persecuted, according to incomplete data collected by Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website dedicated to reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Over 3,020 elderly practitioners were targeted between 2018 to 2020. Last year alone, a total of 1,334 practitioners older than 65 years were persecuted. Despite their age, they were physically and mentally abused, and some were even persecuted to death, reported Minghui.org. Falun Gong is an ancient, spiritual meditation practice based on the universal values of “truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.” It is freely practiced all around the world but has been violently persecuted in China by the communist regime since 1999.
In 2020, the cases of elderly spiritual believers’ pensions being suspended emerged throughout China, from northeastern Liaoning province to southwestern Sichuan province. And there is no sign of it stopping in 2021. Data recorded on Minghui.org shows that from December 2020 to January 2021, another 27 practitioners have had their pensions suspended for upholding their beliefs.
Bitter Winter reported that in September 2019, a Catholic meeting venue in Jiangxi’s Poyang County was “ordered to cease religious activities.” The local officials threatened that elderly congregation members would have their retirement pensions revoked if any further meeting was held. The officials removed the church’s cross and a painting of the Virgin Mary and displayed portraits of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong.
In an incident in 2017, four house Christians in their 70s were forcibly taken to the local police station in Sichuan province and detained until 8 p.m. in the evening. One among them, who was also arrested in 2010, was warned that “if he continued to believe in God, they would cancel his subsistence allowance and veteran benefits,” reported the magazine.
Desperately worrying about the safety and wellness of his bedridden wife in the case that communist officials would detain him again and cancel his subsidy, the elderly man attempted suicide; he was later revived in the hospital.
Harassment, Constant Surveillance
Elderly believers of all faiths are forced to live under the constant fear of being harassed by the Chinese police and authorities.
In July 2020, crosses were forcibly removed from numerous state-approved Three-Self church venues in Lanling County. One of the town officials told onlookers that “crosses must be removed from all churches because Christianity does not belong in China,” reported Bitter Winter.
In March 2019, a Catholic church in Nanyang city, Henan province, deemed “illegal” by the CCP, was raided by seven local communist officials, the magazine said in another report.
The officials caused a lot of damage, including smashing tables, chairs, and the Church podium, as well as ransacking the priest’s residence. Over 400 Bibles, loudspeakers, and valuables were also ransacked. Witnessing the wreck caused in the church, a man in his 70s, who was the person in charge, reprimanded the CCP officials for “acting so brutally,” the report said.
Angered by his reaction, one of the officials raised his fist to attack the elderly man. However, when an onlooker commented, “God is watching what humans are doing, and CCP’s evildoing will not be tolerated,” it stopped the officer.
In another incident, in 2017, an elderly, hearing-impaired Christian man in his 70s who suffers from diabetes and tuberculosis was detained by police and beaten all over his body, with his feet tied to a bed. When his family members inquired, the CCP officials “only alleged that he had opposed the Party,” according to the Bitter Winter report.
In another instance, the communist officials resorted to lies and fumbling with the rules in order to arrest an octogenarian Falun Gong adherent.
According to Chinese criminal law, those above the age of 75 are given more leniency. The age of 75 sets the bar. However, according to The Epoch Times report, the Chinese regime arrested 80-year-old Chen Guifen by altering her date of birth, claiming that she was five years younger.
Guifen was illegally arrested while distributing informational flyers to raise awareness about the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong. Wu Shaoping, a former human rights lawyer in Shanghai, said that the authorities purposely changed her age so that they could give her a harsher punishment.
“Manipulating people’s date of birth is in itself a breach of the law,” he said. “Especially given that their goal is to throw innocent persons into jail.”
Persecuted to Death
In addition to unlawful arrest and financial extortion, the Chinese regime hasn’t hesitated in torturing elderly spiritual believers to death.
On Sept. 19, 2014, Zhang Peibi, an 82-year-old Christian woman from Tai’an town, Wanzhou District, Chongqing, was forcibly taken to an ideological and political education class in the town’s primary school for “faith conversion,” according to another report by Bitter Winter.
After the night-long indoctrination and sleep deprivation, and no food, the elderly lady collapsed in the afternoon on her way back home. Her son took her to a hospital, but despite the efforts and money spent, she passed away on Sept. 22—just three days after the intense indoctrination.
A 77-year-old Falun Gong adherent, Li Shaochen from Tianjin, was arrested on Dec. 7, 2016, and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in Binhai Prison by the Hongqiao District Court in October 2017, according to a Minghui report.
Since May 2019, the prison in which Li was sentenced has been carrying out a campaign to force Falun Gong adherents to renounce their faith. Different forms of physical torture as well as sleep and food deprivation are used to torture these adherents. As a result of the abuse faced in prison, Li lost his life in March 2020.
A 92-year-old retired military officer, Fu Yishuan, was subjected to two decades of persecution before he passed away in September 2020. Fu, from Nanjing city, Jiangsu province, saw a dramatic improvement in his health after taking up the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. However, after the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, Fu was constantly harassed and brainwashed by the police. The mental pressure was so unbearable that Fu once fainted and had to be resuscitated in the hospital.
Due to the persecution, Fu was unable to live in a military-assigned apartment any longer, so he moved to live with his family to hide from the police. He was never able to come back home before he died, Minghui.org reported.
Arshdeep Sarao and Dorothy Li contributed to this report.